International Relations

Opportunities and Challenges in the India-Gulf Partnership

The recent meeting in Riyadh between Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and national security advisers from the United States, the United Arab Emirates, and India shows India’s fresh opportunities on the Arabian Peninsula. The growing strategic convergence between India and the United States in the Gulf, as well as the potential and difficulties for India in the future.

The India-US Gulf Partnership: A Break from Tradition

  • Taking Off the Anti-Western Lens: The Nehruvian foreign policy of avoiding the US in the Middle East is being abandoned, and India is cooperating with the US in the Gulf region.
  • Creating New Alliances: The establishment of I2U2, a four-nation alliance comprised of the United States, India, Israel, and the United Arab Emirates, illustrates the growing strategic convergence between Delhi and Washington in the Gulf.
  • Rejection of Ideological Taboo: India is breaking its ideological taboo of keeping a strategic distance from Israel by transforming its connections with the two Arabian kingdoms, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, into solid strategic partnerships.
  • Partnership Expansion: In addition to the United States, India is beginning to collaborate with France in the Gulf and the Western Indian Ocean.
  • Perception Shift: The United States is leading the West to abandon its pro-Pakistan attitude and reconsider the Subcontinent-Gulf relationship.

New Gulf Strategic Opportunities for India

  • Economic growth: Given the immense financial resources and ambitious economic transformation of Gulf countries like Saudi Arabia and the UAE, the rising Arabian Peninsula promises enormous new opportunities for India’s economic growth.
  • Connectivity and security: India can play a useful role in promoting connectivity and security inside Arabia as well as between it and neighbouring regions such as Africa, the Middle East, the Eastern Mediterranean, and the Subcontinent.
  • Overcoming extremism: Engagement with the Gulf can also assist India in combating the destructive forces of violent religious extremism on the Subcontinent.
  • Raising India’s standing: New potential in Arabia, as well as increasing opportunities for collaboration with the US and the West, position India to rapidly raise its own standing in the area.

The difficulties that India may encounter in seeking strategic possibilities in the Gulf

  • Regional insecurity: Because of continuing hostilities, political tensions, and the existence of non-state players, the Gulf region is prone to political and security instability. This could make it difficult for India to pursue its interests in the area.
  • Dependence on hydrocarbons: India is significantly reliant on Gulf hydrocarbon imports, making it vulnerable to supply disruptions and price volatility. The transition to renewable energy sources and reduced reliance on hydrocarbons may take time and significant investment.
  • Competition from other powers: India is competing with other major powers like as China, the United States, and European countries, all of whom are looking to extend their strategic influence in the Gulf region.
  • Cultural contrasts: Cultural differences between India and several Gulf nations may offer difficulties in creating strong alliances and collaboration in areas such as security and counter-terrorism.
  • Domestic political obstacles, such as political opposition to greater ties with certain Gulf countries, could stymie India’s aspirations to extend its strategic engagement in the area.

Way forward: The next step is to maintain the momentum

  • Strengthening economic ties: India should prioritise deepening economic ties with Gulf countries, including diversifying its trade and investment portfolio, exploring non-oil opportunities, and leveraging its expertise in areas such as technology, healthcare, and renewable energy.
  • Improving security collaboration: India should collaborate with its Gulf allies to improve security cooperation, especially counter-terrorism and intelligence sharing, in order to contribute to regional stability and security.
  • People-to-people exchanges: India should encourage more people-to-people exchanges with Gulf countries, especially through cultural and educational exchanges, tourism, and sports.
  • Regional initiatives should be supported: India should support regional activities that promote stability, connectivity, and development in the Gulf and the wider Middle East area.
  • Balancing relations with diverse actors: India should endeavour to balance its relations with numerous regional actors, such as the United States, France, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Iran, and avoid being engaged in regional rivalries.

@the end

The burgeoning India-US alliance in the Gulf area heralds a new age of cooperation with the potential to improve regional economic growth, connectivity, and security. The collaboration represents a change from customary Middle Eastern tactics and has the potential to boost India’s standing in the Gulf.

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